Patrick Swayze died Monday after an almost two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57. For a run in the late 1980s and early 1990s he was among the biggest movie stars in the world
The hunky actor, who danced his way into viewers' hearts with "Dirty Dancing" and then broke them with "Ghost," was handed his diagnosis in January 2008. Despite a five-year survival rate of 4 percent for that cancer, Mr. Swayze threw himself into treatment while working grueling days on A&E's "The Beast," his final credit.
Mr. Swayze's first lead role in "Red Dawn" (1984) gained him cult notice, but his big break would come on the small screen when he carried the epic TV miniseries "North and South" as Orry Main. Two years later, he would carry a hit film.
Johnny Castle, the rebellious dance instructor in "Dirty Dancing," was Mr. Swayze's first role as an icon, and the film was a surprise success. In "Dirty Dancing," which earned him a Golden Glove nomination, Mr. Swayze had one of the more repeated quotes in cinema history: "Nobody puts Baby in the corner," though he said in an interview he tried desperately to have it removed from the script. While "Dirty Dancing" was still a cultural phenomenon, the dystopic "Steel Dawn" opened in 1987 and promptly flopped. But Mr. Swayze's "Dancing" afterglow endured even though he seemed to pick roles as an antidote to his own hype, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
In the meantie, Swayze just never fit the Hollywood hunk mold, though he had that reddish brown hair, blue-sky eyes, chiseled cheeks and equally chiseled abs going for him. There were no strange eccentricities, no sex tapes to be leaked. He was, by all accounts, a professional on set, a worthy colleague for any actor who played opposite him whether friend or foe; kind to the crew; generous to a fault; sentimental and not ashamed of it.
Maybe that's in part because Swayze was really never raised for this world. A Houston native who grew up dancing and riding horses, he married the love of his life, Lisa Niemi, when they were still young. They stayed together more than 34 years, until the end, spending their time just outside L.A. on what in Texas we would call a spread; here it was dubbed Rancho Bizarro.
Swayze's values were rooted in this country's heartland ethics, and like his Texas twang, they stayed with him, he held them close. The actor had no taste for the tabloid culture and until he was dying, it had no taste for him -- then and only then, it would not let him alone. They should be ashamed.
His cancer was diagnosed in early 2008, but, not content to go gently into that good night, Swayze defied all -- including death -- and took on the lead in an A&E drama series, "The Beast." You had to wonder, as you watched the ferocity of his performance as an FBI undercover agent with a dark back story, if he'd given the name "The Beast" to the disease as well.
By the time the show premiered in early 2009, the exquisite bones that had once carved out handsome some 25 years ago had become so gaunt they cast dark shadows on his face, gave his smiles a forced look. Still he carried on, Los Angeles Times reports.
It was also reported,o ff-screen, he was an avid conservationist who was moved by his time in Africa to shine a light on "man's greed and absolute unwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature's laws," he told the AP in 2004.
Swayze was married since 1975 to Niemi, a fellow dancer who took lessons with his mother; they met when he was 19 and she was 15. A licensed pilot, Niemi would fly her husband from Los Angeles to Northern California for treatment at Stanford University Medical Center, t he Associated Press reports.